Buying a Prepaid SIM Card in the Republic of the Congo Guide

When exploring the Republic of the Congo, which is also known as Congo-Brazzaville, it is best to buy a prepaid SIM card in the Congo. That way, you can enjoy local rates when exploring the country.

The issue with roaming with your provider is that roaming can be expensive in many cases. International SIM cards often charge high rates when traveling in the Republic of the Congo. So getting a Congolese SIM card seems to be the most affordable alternative.

Luckily, it is relatively easy to get a SIM card in the Republic of the Congo, and data packages are not too expensive.

In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in the Republic of the Congo. Let’s go.

Note: This article is NOT about the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is also known as Congo-Kinshasa, DR Congo, DRC, and DROC, and used to be known as Zaire. DRC is the larger Congo. You can read my guide about DRC here.

Buying a SIM Card in the Republic of the Congo Guide (MTN & Airtel)

Telecom Operators, Networks, and Frequencies in the Republic of Congo

The Republic of Congo has 2 telecom operators:

Both operators have 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE networks.

You may have heard of Azur Congo. They shut down in September 2019.

The following frequencies are used by the Congolese operators:

  • 2G: 900 MHz & 1800 MHz
  • 3G: 900 MHz & 2100 MHz
  • 4G/LTE: 2600 MHz (Band 7)

Be aware that African operators typically use 1800 MHz on Band 3 for their 4G/LTE network. The only other African operators that use 2600 MHz on Band 7 that I am aware of are MTN Zambia and Zamtel (Zambia).

The Best Prepaid SIM Card in the Republic of the Congo

If you want to buy a SIM card in the Republic of the Congo, then Airtel is the best option. They have good coverage throughout the country, and they are, on average, cheaper than to MTN (1137 XAF/GB vs. 2103 XAF/GB) when looking at the data-only packages. Moreover, Airtel offers double the data when you activate a data package with Airtel Money.

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SIM Card Registration Regulations in the Republic of the Congo

Just like most countries in Central Africa, and Africa in general, you have to register your passport details to buy a SIM card in the Republic of the Congo.

The State of the Telecom Market in the Republic of the Congo

(This section is not potent to learn how to get a SIM card in the Republic of the Congo, and the prices for the packages offered by the local operators. However, it does give you background information on how the Congolese telecom market is, and it explains why things are how they are. If you are simply interested in getting a SIM card in the Republic of the Congo, click here to jump to the first operator.)

The Republic of the Congo is next to the South Atlantic Ocean, which means it is connected to several submarine cables. It is a given that countries next to the sea or ocean have, on average, significantly lower mobile data rates compared to landlocked countries because they do not have to rely on bandwidth from neighboring countries.  

The landline infrastructure in the Republic of the Congo is decent for central African standards. Still, it is not excellent. Even then, the Speedtest Global Index reports that the Republic of the Congo has an average download speed of 23 Mbps for fixed broadband and an average upload speed of 13.3 Mbps in May 2020. Cable.co.uk reports a mean of fewer than 1 Mbps for both download and upload. Quite a difference.

Do note that the mobile market is booming in the Republic of the Congo, and it has been reported that the mobile penetration is around 100%. Even then, the regulator in the Republic of the Congo has had to warn the operators various times to improve their services upon receiving many complaints.

In terms of mobile data rates, mobile internet rates are slightly average in the Republic of the Congo compared to Central African standards. The average cost of 1 GB of data in the Republic of the Congo is 8.74 USD compared to the Central African average of 8.12 USD, according to the Alliance 4 Affordable Internet (A4AI).

When comparing this price to the prices in Africa as a whole, the Republic of the Congo is above the African average of 6.45 USD for 1 GB. When looking average monthly income of residents in the Republic of the Congo, a Congolese would spend 6.39% of their monthly income on 1 GB of data, which is less than the Central African average (11.85%) and also less than the African average (7.12%).

Right now, there is a duopoly in the Republic of the Congo with Airtel Congo and MTN Congo. There used to be a third operator called Azur Congo. They ceased operations in September 2019 and posted this video on their Facebook page (in French). Azur wants to come back in the future, but no further updates on their plans could be found after September 2019.

A news report dating back in 2016 shows that Azur was in a bad financial situation, so it seems like it was just a matter of time until Azur would cease operations.

When referring to coverage throughout the Republic of the Congo, it is poor. Mainly the cities have coverage.

Airtel Congo Coverage Map (Speedtest)
Airtel Congo Coverage Map according to the Speedtest Network Checker
MTN Congo Coverage Map (Speedtest)
MTN Congo Coverage Map according to the Speedtest Network Checker

Free Roaming in Gabon and the Republic of the Congo

As of the 1st of January 2020, those with a Congolese SIM card can roam for free in Gabon, and those with a Gabonese SIM card can roam for free in the Republic of the Congo. Receiving calls for a roaming subscriber is free in the Republic of the Congo and Gabon, and a call made by a roaming subscriber is billed to 158 XAF. The regulators, ARPCE and ARCEP, encourage the local operators to offer free data roaming or reduced data roaming costs in the future.

Currency in the Republic of the Congo

The Republic of the Congo uses the Central African CFA Franc with the symbol XAF (which will be used throughout this article), which should NOT be confused with the West African CFA Franc with the symbol XOF. Prices in the Republic of the Congo are listed in (F)CFA. For example, 25 XAF is 25 (F)CFA. For reference, below are some exchange rates between XAF and USD (US Dollars – Rounded):

  • 10 XAF = 0.02 USD
  • 100 XAF = 0.20 USD
  • 1000 XAF = 1.70 USD
  • 10 000 XAF = 17.15USD
  • 100 000 XAF = 171.50 USD
  • 1 000 000 XAF = 1714.80 USD

For up-to-date XAF:USD exchange rates, search XAF to USD on Google, or replace USD with the currency you use.

If your credit/debit card charges you foreign exchange fees, get yourself a Transferwise Borderless Account and Debit Card. Their fees are MUCH lower than banks, and credit card companies charge you (and Transferwise is transparent about their fees, unlike banks). I have saved literal THOUSANDS of Euros, my main currency, when using Transferwise abroad when traveling compared to my debit and credit cards. Open a Transferwise account FREE!

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Congolese Prepaid SIM Cards

Below, I will guide you through Airtel Congo and MTN Congo and go through:

  • Background information
  • SIM card types, prices, and availability
  • Recharge / top-up information
  • Combo plans, data plans, and special packs (such as social media packs)   

With that being said, let’s see what Airtel Congo and MTN Congo have to offer to us.

Airtel Congo

Airtel Logo

Airtel Congo, just Airtel, is the largest operator in the Republic of Congo. They also have decent coverage throughout the country.

Getting an Airtel Congo SIM Card & Topping Up

You can get an Airtel SIM card for less than 300 XAF in Airtel stores or from Airtel retailers. Recharge cards are widely available, but it is also possible to top-up online. To top-up, dial *136*VoucherCode*. For example, if your voucher code is 123456, you would dial *136*123456#. Dial *137# to check your Airtel balance.

Airtel Internet Packages, Plans, Bundles & Offers

Airtel has data-only plans, which are called Forfaits Internet. They are sold in daily, nightly, weekly, and monthly variants. You get double the data allowance when you activate a data plan with Airtel Money. The validity of the bonus data does not always align with the validity of the data plan, which is something to be aware of. The validity of each data allowance will clearly be stated.

Airtel Forfaits Internet 1 Jour (1 Day)

The Forfait Internet 1 Jour plans are daily plans that are valid for 24 hours. The following daily plans are available:

PriceDataData ValidityAirtel Money Bonus DataBonus Data ValidityActivation
100 XAF20 MB24 hours20 MB24 hours*121*4*1*1#
135 XAF30 MB24 hours30 MB24 hours*121*4*2*1#
250 XAF60 MB24 hours60 MB24 hours*121*4*2*2#
525 XAF150 MB24 hours150 MB24 hours*121*4*2*3#
1100 XAF400 MB24 hours400 MB24 hours*121*4*2*4#
1900 XAF800 MB24 hours800 MB24 hours*121*4*2*5#
2500 XAF1.5 GB24 hours1.5 GB24 hours*121*4*2*6#
Airtel Forfaits Internet Nuit (Night)

The Forfait Internet Nuit plans are daily plans that are valid at night between 00:00-4:59 (12 AM-4:59 AM). Unlike the other types of plans, the night plans do not come with Airtel Money data bonus. The following nightly plans are available:

PriceDataValidityActivation
300 XAF200 MB1 night between 00:00-4:59 (12 AM-4:59 AM)*121*4*5*1#
1100 XAF1 GB1 night between 00:00-4:59 (12 AM-4:59 AM)*121*4*5*2#
3200 XAF3 GB1 night between 00:00-4:59 (12 AM-4:59 AM)*121*4*5*3#
Airtel Forfaits Internet 7 Jours (7 Days)

The Forfait Internet 7 Jours plans are weekly plans (7 days). The following weekly plans are available:

PriceDataData ValidityAirtel Money Bonus DataBonus Data ValidityActivation
500 XAF100 MB7 days100 MB3 days*121*4*1*2#
750 XAF175 MB7 days175 MB3 days*121*4*1*3#
1200 XAF300 MB7 days300 MB3 days*121*4*3*1#
2000 XAF600 MB7 days600 MB3 days*121*4*3*2#
4500 XAF2 GB7 days2 GB3 days*121*4*3*3#
6000 XAF3 GB7 days3 GB3 days*121*4*3*4#
9000 XAF6 GB7 days6 GB3 days*121*4*3*5#
Airtel Forfaits Internet 30 Jours (30 Days)

The Forfait Internet 30 Jours plans are monthly plans (30 days). Some of the 30-day data plans split the total data allowance over 30 days instead of a lump sum. However, you always have the option to choose the split version or the lump sum version without extra charge. The following monthly plans are available:

PriceDataData ValidityAirtel Money Bonus DataBonus Data ValidityActivation
5500 XAF1 GB30 days1 GB7 days*121*4*4*1#
11 000 XAF2.5 GB30 days2.5 GB7 days*121*4*4*2#
16 000 XAF5 GB30 days5 GB7 days*121*4*4*3#
25 000 XAF11 GB30 days11 GB7 days*121*4*4*4#
35 000 XAF683 MB/day30 days683 MB/day7 days*121*4*4*5#
35 000 XAF20 GB30 days20 GB7 days*121*4*4*6#
50 000 XAF1.3 GB/day30 days1.3 GB/day7 days*121*4*4*7#
50 000 XAF40 GB30 days40 GB7 days*121*4*4*8#
75 000 XAF2.2 GB/day30 days2.2 GB/day7 days*121*4*4*9#
75 000 XAF65 GB30 days65 GB7 days*121*4*4*10#
104 000 XAF5 GB/day30 days5 GB/day7 days*121*4*4*11#
104 000 XAF150 GB30 days150 GB7 days*121*4*4*12#

Airtel Congo APN Settings

In most cases, your phone will retrieve the correct APN settings automatically. If you need to enter it manually, then you need the following details (do not add anything not mentioned below):

  • Name: Airtel Congo B
  • APN: internet

RELATED GUIDES:

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MTN Congo

MTN Logo

MTN Congo, just Congo, is the other operator in Congo. They also have decent coverage throughout the country.

Getting an MTN Congo SIM Card & Topping Up

MTN SIM cards are sold for less than 300 XAF in MTN stores throughout Congo. Recharge cards are widely available in denominations of 500 XAF, 1000 XAF, 2000 XAF, and 5000 XAF. To top-up, dial *556*VoucherCode*. For example, if your voucher code is 123456, you would dial *566*123456#.

MTN Congo Internet Packages, Plans, Bundles & Offers

MTN has data-only plans, which are called Forfaits Maxi Net. They are sold in daily, nightly, weekly, and monthly variants.

MTN Forfaits Maxi Net 1 Jour (1 Day)

The Forfait Maxi Net 1 Jour plans are daily plans that are valid for 24 hours. The following daily plans are available:

PriceVolumeValidityActivation
100 XAF20 MB24 hours*125*2*5*2*5*1#
125 XAF20 MB24 hours*125*2*5*1*1*3#
500 XAF100 MB24 hours*125*2*5*1*1*1#
1000 XAF300 MB24 hours*125*2*5*1*1*2#
2500 XAF1 GB24 hours*125*2*5*1*1*4#
MTN Forfaits Maxi Net Nuit (Night)

The Forfait Maxi Net plans are daily plans that are valid at night between 00:00-5:59 (12 AM-5:59 AM). The following nightly plans are available:

PriceVolumeValidityActivation
250 XAF300 MB24 hours between 0:00-5:59*125*2*5*3*1*1#
1000 XAF1.4GB24 hours between 0:00-5:59*125*2*5*3*2*1#
3000 XAF 5 GB24 hours between 0:00-5:59*125*2*5*3*3*1#
MTN Forfaits Maxi Net 7 Jours (7 Days)

The Forfait Internet 7 Jours plans are weekly plans (7 days). The following weekly plans are available:

PriceVolumeValidityActivation
500 XAF100 MB7 days*125*2*5*2*5*2#
700 XAF150 MB7 days*125*2*5*2*5*3#
1700 XAF300 MB7 days*125*2*5*1*2*1#
3300 XAF600 MB7 days*125*2*5*1*2*2#
5000 XAF1 GB7 days*125*2*5*1*2*3#
8500 XAF2.5 GB7 days*125*2*5*1*2*4#
MTN Forfaits Maxi Net 30 Jours (30 Days)

The Forfait Maxi Net 30 Jours plans are monthly plans (30 days). The following monthly plans are available:

PriceVolumeValidityActivation
10 000 XAF2 GB30 days*125*2*5*1*3*6#
14 000 XAF3 GB30 days*125*2*5*1*3*7#
18 000 XAF5 GB30 days*125*2*5*1*3*5#
25 000 XAF10 GB30 days*125*2*5*1*3*4#
30 000 XAF15 GB30 days*125*2*5*1*3*2#
40 000 XAF20 GB30 days*125*2*5*1*3*3#
60 000 XAF45 GB30 days*125*2*5*1*3*1#

Airtel Congo APN Settings

In most cases, your phone will retrieve the correct APN settings automatically. If you need to enter it manually, then you need the following details (do not add anything not mentioned below):

  • Name: MTN Congo
  • APN: internet.mtn.cg

Other Ways to Get Online When Traveling in the Republic of the Congo

Getting a Congolese SIM card is probably the cheapest way to connect to the internet when traveling in the Republic of the Congo. However, you can also:

Mobile Hotspots for the Republic of the Congo

Mobile hotspots are battery-powered wireless router that allows you to connect your phone, laptop, or tablet without needing multiple SIM cards for those devices to be connected to the internet. They are excellent for those traveling in groups, like friends or family.

You can either buy a mobile hotspot (like the ones I cover in this article). As a solo traveler, I barely get a mobile hotspot for myself, but they can be useful when traveling in pairs or as a group.

Skyroam for the Republic of the Congo

Skyroam Logo

Skyroam covers more than 130 destinations around the world, including the Republic of the Congo. Their daily rate is $8.99, and you get unlimited internet through the mobile hotspot – wherever you go. You can get a discount with Skyroam by using coupon code PHONETRAVELWIZ upon checkout. You should take advantage of that!

Skyroam banner

International SIM Cards for the Republic of the Congo

With an international SIM card, you can keep using the same SIM card when traveling in various countries without paying expensive roaming rates and without the need to buy a local prepaid SIM card for each destination you visit.

This way, you do not have to deal with SIM card registration procedures, which can be time-consuming in some countries.

When you searched for “Buy SIM card Congo” or “Buy SIM card Republic of the Congo”, you probably saw many sites selling international SIM cards covering the Republic of the Congo (or straight up recommending you SIM cards for the Democratic Republic of the Congo – which is the wrong Congo in this case).

Some of those international SIM cards are good and reasonably well prices. Some of them are so expensive that they make international roaming look cheap (which says a lot).

Moreover, they often sell you a bundle. If you do not use all of it. Well – you have lost part of your money.

However, there is one international SIM card that I would recommend for the Republic of the Congo, and that is Surfroam.

There is one international SIM card that I would recommend for Seychelles, and that is Surfroam.

Surfroam for the Republic of the Congo

Surfroam logo

Surfroam is an international SIM card that can be used in over 200 destinations around the world, including the Republic of the Congo. You pay what you use for – not for a bundle that you will partially use.

If this is not the first guide you have read of me, then you know that I bring my Surfroam SIM card to every destination I go to. That is because I may not be able to buy a local SIM as quickly as I want (SIM card prices at the airports are often overinflated or I am not staying in the capital city and am going elsewhere). However, I do need to be connected as soon as possible for business reasons. That is where Surfroam comes in as a bridge between arrival and me buying a local prepaid SIM card.

Surfroam data rates start from as little as €0.01/MB (or €10.24/GB) in over 200 destinations. Surprisingly, you will only pay €0.01/MB in the Republic of the Congo when using your Surfroam SIM card. This is by far a better deal than most international SIM cards out there (of which many do not even cover the Republic of the Congo).

The price for a Surfroam SIM card is €15, and the eSIM version costs €20 (yes, eSIMs work abroad). However, the €15/€20 you spent on the SIM will be credited as credit that can be used when in the Republic of the Congo or any other destination you visit. So the Surfroam SIM card is basically free. And it does not expire (as long as you top-up at least once a year).

Based on all these perks, it is quite easy to see why Surfroam is my favorite international SIM card.

Surfroam Banner

Roaming with your Provider in the Republic of the Congo

You may have read or heard of horror stories of those going on a holiday and coming back, just to see a roaming bill in the thousands because they roamed while abroad. That is not pleasant, which is why many seasoned travelers prefer to buy local SIM cards.

However, that does not mean international roaming is bad or evil. In fact, roaming with your provider is the most convenient way to stay connected when traveling because you can keep using your SIM card and do not have to buy a new one.

Luckily, many operators have something what they call a roaming plan, package, pass, or whatever they call it. With this feature, you will pay lower rates compared to standard roaming rates (which is how people get high roaming bills).

Many Central African operators, or operators from Africa in general, include the Republic of the Congo in their roaming plans. However, not all of them do.

I have written many articles covering the roaming options of operators around the world, so have a look and see if I covered yours already. I also have many phone travel tips to keep your phone bills low when traveling.

Free WIFI Hotspots in the Republic of the Congo

For some reason, something feels better when it is free – when you do not have to pay for it. Sometimes, it feels worse as well. Anyway, free WIFI hotspots are awesome because you can get connected to the internet for free! What about in the Republic of the Congo?

You will barely find any free WIFI hotspots while in the Republic of the Congo. Those that you do manage to find will be slow.

Furthermore, public WIFI hotspots are unsecure. They are a target for hackers and shady people to steal your data and use your personal information for things they should not be using it for. Or simply take over your accounts.

That is why I ALWAYS use a VPN when connecting to public WIFI connections. Not only public WIFI connections but every WIFI connection that is not my home network (even at home I connect to a VPN because internet service providers can sell your browsing history to advertisers). This way, I ensure my traffic stays private.

But what does a VPN do? A VPN creates an encrypted tunnel between your device and the VPN server. This way, hackers cannot see what you are doing. Moreover, VPNs mask your IP address, which makes it hard for anyone to trace what you are doing, including mobile operators and governments (internet freedom is not a thing in many countries – it is, luckily, in the Republic of the Congo). Quite cool, If I have to be honest.

If you are in the Republic of the Congo, I recommend using Surfshark (which I have been using for about a year now) and connect to servers located in Nigeria (the closest server location to the Republic of the Congo). Unfortunately, Surfshark has no servers in the country (maybe in Rwanda soon – that would be much better), so the Nigerian servers are recommended.

The thing is, Surfshark is extremely affordable. They also have many servers around the world (Europe, Asia, the Americas, Oceania), so you can use Surfshark while at home. You to connect as many devices as you want at the same time on one account (which is rather unique – most VPN providers put a cap on that). Surfshark has regular promotions going on, so better check if one is going on right now, and keep your internet traffic secure and away from prying eyes!

Surfshark Banner

The Preferred Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in the Republic of the Congo

Getting a SIM card from Airtel (best coverage and affordable) would do you well considering a Congolese SIM card.

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Local Prepaid SIM Card in Other African Countries

Going to other countries in Central Africa? Check out my Central Africa SIM card buying guide, covering other Central African nations, such as:

  • Angola
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Cameroon
  • Congo-Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of the Congo)

Be sure to check out this guide covering all African countries, such as these popular African travel destinations:

Otherwise, I have many guides covering countries all over the world. Get my SIM card recommendation sheet by signing up for my newsletter!

Next Steps to Enhance Your Travel Experiences

Looking for the next steps to enhance your phone travel experiences? Here is what to do:

Check Out My Resource Page

Looking for the best companies and gadgets to enhance your travel experience? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! Save money with international SIM cards, on plane tickets, bus rides, cruises, and accommodation. Besides that, I also list services and items I use to make my life easier – and I believe they will help you too!

Phone Travel Tips & Hacks

I have written many articles with tips and hacks to save money on mobile costs while abroad. You surely want to check them out!

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Ernest Adu

Ernest Adu, going by just Adu, is the founder and editor at Phone Travel Wiz. He has been a traveler for 6 years. Although from Europe, the Netherlands, Adu's favorite region in Asia, in particular, East and Southeast Asia. He currently lives in Tainan, Taiwan due to the current pandemic and does not have any travel plans for after his stay in Taiwan.

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